The Living End
deck was a brainchild of ChannelFireball's Travis Woo, who took the deck to the Top 4 of Grand Prix Oakland in 2010. This was a format where things like Dark Depths
, and the infernal Thopter combo
were wreaking havoc, and yet the deck was successful.
After Woo's initial success, the deck was not often talked about. With the introduction of the Modern format, many of Extended's premier decks were rendered unusable (mainly due to the banlist), leaving Living End as one of the few decks that was able to survive a direct port into the new format. Cedric Philips, and later Travis Woo himself, would write articles on the deck, bringing it back into the light, where it sits as one of the more accessible Modern decks.
II. How Does it Work?
The modus operandi of the Living End
deck revolves around three card types: cascade spells, creatures that can easily bin themselves, and Living End
The idea is to fill your graveyard with a pile of creatures, then cast a spell with cascade. You'll flip cards over until you hit Living End
. The result will be an empty field for your opponent, and a heap of creatures for you. Easy, right?
The early game isn't too exciting - you'll want to spend your first couple turns cycling creatures, maybe casting a Fulminator Mage
to try and trip up your opponent. Then, when you have a sizable force in your graveyard, you cast the cascade spell of your choice (typically Violent Outburst
or Demonic Dread
) and deposit a lethal attack onto the battlefield.
The late game for Living End is very strong - nearly half of the deck is creatures, and opponents will typically fold under the repeated impact of 3/4 or 4/4 bodies. Top-of-the-curve cyclers like Jungle Weaver
will almost certainly be the meatiest chunk of power and toughness on the field once you've resolved a Living End
"Did... did you just call us fat?"
NOTE: Please, for the love of Urza, keep this in mind when dealing with this deck.
In order to ensure that your cascade spells will hit Living End
, it's imperative that you do NOT run other spells that you could potentially cascade into instead of it. That being said, it is easiest to assume that any nonland cards with converted mana cost 2 or less are unplayable in this deck.
The only exceptions are used in fringe sideboard strategies, and will be discussed later.
III. Card choices
The Time Spiral redux of Tempest's Living Death
, this is what our deck's strategy revolves around. Toss your creatures into the graveyard like corn husks, then cascade into this baby. Neat, clean, and efficient.
It's important to note that it's okay to suspend this card! Against slower, more controlling decks, suspending a Living End is a great way to force your opponent to overload their mana.
This is the card you most want to have when you're ready to combo off. Instant speed is back-breaking when dealing with an effect as strong as Living End
's, as you can effectively turn it into a Rout
tandem. Your guys will be itching to attack once you untap!
Once you've got some beef on the board, this card doubles as a neat little pump effect, allowing you to get in that last little bit of damage. You will want to run four of these all day, every day.
It's the less desirable of the 3-mana cascaders we're running, but only slightly so. Sorcery speed means you won't be surprising your opponent, and it leaves you open to the nonchalant "untap, wrath, go" response on their next turn. Additionally, you need to have a target for this one to work. It shouldn't be a huge deal, as lots of decks will have a creature you can target (and we have our own ways of providing targets, discussed below), but the truth is that this card is a bit more clunky than Violent Outburst
I'm only really including this card to say this: you're better off not running it. The poster child of cascade is an awesome creature, make no mistake about that. But if you run her out there, you run the risk of hitting a non-cascade 3-drop (and we run quite a few of those) instead of a Living End
- and it's that randomness that makes her a poor fit for this deck.
He cycles for one mana and is a 3/4 body, which is actually extremely important. Three power is enough to take down small chump blockers that your opponent is likely to toss out there after getting blown out by Living End
, and four toughness shrugs off Lightning Bolt
and Lightning Helix
. The ability to shoot fliers is gravy - he can be a 2-for-1 even when hardcast!
It's really quite amazing how much trouble a big, dumb 4/4 can create for your opponent. His "attacks each turn if able" drawback is rarely an issue, and he can take big chunks out of an opponent when left unchecked. He'll usually eat up your opponent's worst chump blocker every turn, but when everything else is attacking for 3, it's really not that bad.
Free cycling is sweet. The swampwalk is sweeter (hello there, Jund). The 3/4 body is par for the course. You'll want to be careful with these against aggressive decks, however - in those games, life can be a precious resource, and you'll probably want to side him out against things like affinity or burn.
This guy is awesome. 5/6 is the size of a large Tarmogoyf
, and reach is surprisingly relevant, stopping Insectile Aberration
, Vendilion Clique
, and even the pesky Angel token from Geist of Saint Traft
. Cycling for two mana puts it behind the aforementioned cyclers in terms of opening-hand desirability, but this is still the biggest nasty to come out of the graveyard on the heels of a Living End
. Most lists will want to run at least 2.
The bigger butt and reach on Jungle Weaver
is preferable to an extra point of power, but he's there if you really want to use him.
Landcycling is very important for the Living End deck, as you will typically not want more than 19-20 lands. That being said, you will probably dedicate anywhere from 3-6 of your slots to landcyclers. Valley Rannet
grabs mountains and forests, and is therefore able to fetch any of the Jund-colored shocklands, as well as Temple Garden
(which is needed for the next creature on this list). His weakness? Three toughness. This means he dies to just about every removal spell that's worth a damn in Modern. Run him at your own risk.
Probably the best of the landcyclers. It can grab most of our relevant duals, and has a body comparable to our big buddy Jungle Weaver
. You'll definitely want to splash a Temple Garden
if you plan to use these.
Architects of Will
Architects is a weird one. Its merits include being a one-mana cycler and having a very handy ability that can screw your opponents out of being able to deal with your army. Its flaws are a small body (it fails the Bolt test), awkward cycling cost (we're not running blue unless Forbidden Orchard
is in the list), and being an artifact. Try him out and see how he works for you.
Haste is not enough to save this creature from its debilitating weakness of having one toughness. Seriously. A stiff breeze will kill this guy. Stick with Pale Recluse
and Valley Rannet
Modern is a format where just about every deck (except burn) leans on nonbasic lands to play their spells efficiently. Fulminator Mage
punishes all of them. Land destruction is a strong secondary theme in Living End
, as it helps us keep our opponent from recovering post-End. Fulminator has the added benefit of being a creature, coming back on the heels of a Living End
to snipe another land. Screw them out of a color, break up the UrzaTron... this card is an absolute must. No fewer than three maindeck.
The evoke mechanic works very favorably with Living End
, and Ingot Chewer
is a top choice because of its cheap evoke cost, reasonable body, and relevant secondary effect. A fair amount of grave hate cards are artifacts (Tormod's Crypt
, Relic of Progenitus
, Nihil Spellbomb
), and ol' Chewy can help shore up the matchup against Affinity by taking out Cranial Plating
. This is a valuable creature to have in your 75, and is definitely maindeck-able.
Ever wish Vindicate
was Modern-legal? How about if it was instant-speed? The addition of Beast Within
to this deck's repertoire was nothing short of a godsend. You can take out any troublesome permanent for a flexible , all for the drawback of giving them a 3/3 Beast...
...that dies to Living End
. Most of the time this will just be hitting lands to supplement your Fulminator Mage
s, but the ability to take out planeswalkers and the occasional enchantment is what puts this card over the top. Run as many of these as you can.
If Beast Within
is our most versatile card, then this little faerie is a close second. This card screws with approxiately two million decks in some way. Shrink a Tarmogoyf
. Kick the Gifts Ungiven
-and-a-fatty plan square in the nads. Make your Living End
more profitable by exiling the best dudes in their yard. Or, if you just need a flier, stuff her in there and don't target anything! She does have an annoying penchant for getting shot out of the sky by our own Deadshot Minotaur
s, but she's already done her job by then.
If you decide to run this card (hint: you probably should), it's better off starting in the maindeck as a 2 or 3-of, as it is quite weak out of the sideboard.
Another supplement to the LD plan, this one is a turn slower, but can also hit basic lands. Echo is another mechanic that plays well with Living End
- you won't feel bad about not paying. The haste is rarely relevant, but this is one of the few creatures that can swing if you cast End off Demonic Dread
, for what that's worth.
This card works equally well in the maindeck or the sideboard. You won't need more than a couple copies, since they are slow, but they make for a good, tight gameplan with Fulminator Mage
and Beast Within
Simian Spirit Guide
This guy is a bit of an outlier. Running a set of SSGs in your deck changes the dynamic of it a fair bit. Being able to power out a turn 2 Fulminator Mage
or cascade a turn early to negate an Infect deck's god hand is very attractive.
The biggest problem you'll encounter with running Simian Spirit Guide
is consistency. Most of the time, this card is run in place of Pale Recluse
, which: a) makes the deck less threat-dense, and b) makes you mulligan land-sparse hands more often. The case for SSG has been maintained since its Modern debut, but players have started to shy away from him in favor of a more consistent game plan.
I doubt this card will ever see play elsewhere in Modern. Playing narrow reactive cards is generally a bad use of sideboard space, but in the case of Living End
, it is sometimes necessary. Nothing sucks more than having your Living End Remand
The idea is to cascade into Living End
, then when your opponent plays a counterspell targeting it, cast this card and change the target to Ricochet Trap
(yes, you can do this.) This card is therefore only playable against decks with counter magic (which is a lot), so if you find yourself in a meta full of aggro decks, leave this one at home.
This card is a veritable Swiss Army knife. It's most common mode is as a graveyard killer, but it can also be used as a Pyroclasm
or a double Battlegrowth
. Many LE players find this card incredibly handy to have in their 75. Of the listed sideboard options, this one is perhaps the most maindeckable.
Leyline of the Void
A lot of Modern decks heart them some graveyards - Pyromancer Ascension
Storm, Dredgevine, Eggs, and UW Tron, to name a few. Bring this in against those decks. Note that if you intend to run Leyline in your sideboard, it should be as a 4-of. Anything less, and you might run into consistency problems.
Once again, a card that probably no other Modern deck is going to run. This guy is awesome against red decks. A Gray Ogre
that can sac itself anytime for 4 life, then come back off Living End
for 4 more. It may seem silly, but try it - you won't be disappointed.
Gnaw to the Bone
This card competes with Brindle Boar
as the sideboard card of choice against burn and Red Deck Wins. Gnaw has the advantage of being able to potentially gain you more life than the Boar. It's also an instant, which means you can surprise your opponent with it if they are not expecting it. The downside is that it is dependent on the number of creatures in your graveyard. Ordinarily, this wouldn't be an issue, but there are plenty of instances where you would rather have Brindle Boar
. The choice is up to you - both cards do their job pretty well.
Sometimes you need to remove a troublesome creature before you're ready to cascade. From personal experience, the number one offender is Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
, although there are certainly others. Shriekmaw
will cure what ails ya, provided the problem isn't black or an artifact. His home is in the sideboard, though, because when he's good, he's extremely good, and when he's bad, he's extremely bad.
This card some extra sideboard hate vs. artifacts and enchantments. The split second is nice, forcing your spell through any and all counter magic to trip up the Splinter Twin
combo, as well as any Arcbound Ravager
shenanigans when picking off affinity's nastiest artifact. This card is comparatively narrow, since we're already running Beast Within
, but is a serviceable choice if you're looking to round off your sideboard.
I'd really only recommend this card if you predict long, grindy games that involve you running out of Living End
s. This card can really put a damper on control decks, especially when used in tandem with Ricochet Trap
. It also works as a (somewhat clunky) graveyard hoser against.... well, other decks that use their graveyard.
Sometimes, an opposing aggro deck will just up and kill you before you can even get to cascade mana. The most frequent offender is UG Infect, which is entirely capable of killing on turn 2 with a good draw. This card is one of the few answers we have because it can be cast for as little as one mana while still staying at or above 3 CMC.
Strictly for the Kiki-Twin matchup, and occasionally for affinity. Otherwise, you're better off using Dismember
Another catch-all card, a la Beast Within
, if you're into that sort of thing. Sorcery speed really hurts, though.
IV. Sample Decklists
V. Competitive Record
- Blackcleave Cliffs, Copperline Gorge
These lands are perfect for our deck, as we only need three mana to operate.
- Blood Crypt, Overgrown Tomb, Stomping Ground, Temple Garden
Come on. It's a three (sometimes four)-color deck, did you really think we wouldn't be using these? Oftentimes you'll only need one of each, as we have a ton of ways to grab the ones we want.
- Verdant Catacombs
It's the only one that can grab every shockland in our deck. You can try running others (Scalding Tarn
, Arid Mesa
, etc.), but it's really not necessary.
- Swamp, Mountain, Forest
At least one of each, to help fight through Blood Moon
and not be sad about Path to Exile
- Dryad Arbor, Forbidden Orchard
Sometimes our opponents are big meanie-heads and don't give us a target for our Demonic Dread
s. That's where these come in. Dryad Arbor
is the preferable choice because it can be fetched by Verdant Catacombs
, but the Orchard is an acceptable replacement that can also fix your mana in the early going.
- Kessig Wolf Run, Svogthos, the Restless Tomb, Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
Of these, Kessig Wolf Run
is the best - trample means your biggest guy won't have to stare stupidly at a 1/1 every combat. Svogthos is an okay choice, and can be your only hope if you run out of Living End
s. Urborg is a mana-fixer that makes your Street Wraith
s unblockable. Pick your favorite, but only run 1.
Living End by mephidro (3-1) MTGO Modern Daily- Week of 2/6/12
Living End by LuvLizLemon MTGO Modern PTQ - 1/21/12 5th - 8th Place
Living End by Tibetan Snowlion MTGO Modern Daily (4-0) - Week of 9/5/11
Burn - Gain life however you can. Brindle Boar and Kitchen Finks both play nice with Living End. Obstinate Baloth can pull double duty here while also doing well in Jund matchups. Gnaw to the Bone is an option, but sticking with creature based life gain helps the deck out better.
Affinity - Graveyard hate will stop them "saving" their board with Ravagers or Shrapnel Blasts. Go with Jund Charms or Faerie Macabres. Ingot Chewers for Ethersworn Cannonist or graveyard hosers.
Zoo - Win. Fill up your yard, resolve a Living End, and win. Shriekmaws do wonders in this matchup.
Blue Zoo - I notice Blue Zoo players always tap out for a turn 2 'Goyf. If you're running Simian Spirit Guide (which you should be), go off earlier than you would. Control decks in general become a little easier to deal with if you get a few dudes out fast as opposed to a bunch of 'em out later, and this match is no exception. Bring in those Ricochet Traps for protection.
Jund - Obstinate Baloth is your friend.
MartyrProc - Pack Shriekmaws to keep those angels away, and Macabres or Jund Charms to be rid of pesky Martyrs and Hawks. Don't get turned off by the amounts of life they may gain; once you get a field out, you'll take it down quickly.
Esper/Gifts- Anyone running Gifts into reanimation gets kicked in the nuts by Faerie Macabre. Ricochet Traps are auto-include for control matches. Get dudes out quickly, and don't be afraid to start hard-casting if you're running out of Living Ends.
Caw/Delver Tempo - Damping Matrix in the side makes birds cry fowl. Is kinda like control, but with more breathing room than something like Tron or MUC.
Splinter Twin - Sudden Deaths and Krosan Grips save the day. Always keep mana up for them. Force their hand and they'll start playing Pestermites and Exarchs as defense. Post side, be wary of possible Echoing Truths to rip up your field.
Melira Pod - Macabres and Jund Charms keep them from sac'ing everything in response to Living End and expecting it back. It will also stop their combo dead.
Hive Mind - Take out your Living Ends and replace them with Angel's Grace. Play one off a Forbidden Orchard or cascade into it via Violent Outburst on your upkeep. Hope it's enough.
Tron - Land D can go a long way here, but only early game. It's easy to be tempted to keep them off Tron lands, but focus on colored mana or Eye of Ugin. Graveyard hate should be used if they go for Gifts or Mindslaver lock. Ricochet Traps are a must. Don't scoop if Emrakul lands; you can kill it, you can usually take one swing before dying, and you can survive it.
Storm - Play fast, Fulminator Mage for their lands, and hope you can get their before they do. Graveyard hate in response to a Past in Flames or Pyromancer's Ascension can buy you the time you need. Life gain will help keep them away from lethal Grapeshots.
Fae - They live and die on the stack more than almost any other control deck out there. Spellstutters pee on Living End. Be prepared to fight to get anything through; an extra Living End from the side may give you that one last chance at going off that you need. Don't be afraid to walk into a counter spell if you have another cascade enabler in hand.
The old and crusty Living End thread
The older and crustier Living End thread